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It's a life-threatening disease and topic of discussion that most men "sweep under the rugs." If they have it, they don't talk about it, and they don't bother to allow the doctor to perform the simple check to see if it's developing to catch it at the earliest stage so that it can be treated. When it comes to prostate cancer, most men adopt a don't ask, don't tell strategy. They see the disease as their "shame" because they view it as a threat to their "manhood."
"For a long time, associated with prostate cancer has been erectile dysfunction which means that the man either can't, or has problems performing with his wife on an [intimate] basis," says Valentine "Val" Maura, a member of US Too, a prostate cancer education and support group member. "Also, a lot of men don't get examined because they know they have to take a digital rectal exam (DRE), and when a doctor says you have to drop your pants, most men have all kinds of trepidation. Because of that examination, most men wait until it's kind of late."
Maura himself is one of those men who did not have his first prostate examination until late in life. His first check was performed at age 55. Doctors usually recommend that men without familial history have the exam performed for the first time at age 40, for the disease that occurs when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. Most men have no early symptoms of prostate cancer, but some have urinary symptoms and discomfort.
"I wanted to know what my situation was and I was eager to find out what my condition was," says Maura of the first time he had his prostate examined. As soon as I got near the examination room I got a little chicken myself," said the 62-year-old. "I was real apprehensive when I found out what it entailed, but I said I had come that far and the only way I would find out my condition was to actually be examined."
Maura did the test and received a clean bill of health on his prostate. With his relief he said came questions and concerns as to whether the examination had been properly done and whether he was really safe. He has had his prostate checked every year since. Although he's not a survivor, he's one of those men willing to stand up and promote the awareness of this life-threatening disease most men shy away from speaking about, because they don't want people to know.
"I became interested in cancer some years ago, in the embryonic stage of the Cancer Society some years ago -- and I don't know if I have an inquiring mind, or a wavering mind -- but if I get involved in something, I like to know about it as much as possible. I don't like to just be a member."
As Us Too celebrates Prostate Cancer Awareness Month during September, and a decade as an organization, Maura says there is a lot more openness about the disease and the test to check for prostate cancer because men like himself and a few brave survivors have been talking about it, but he says there needs to be more talk among men. To encourage that much-needed chat, Us Too will stage its third 1,000-man walk for prostate health on Saturday, September 17 behind the theme "Man to Man, Hand to Hand, Foot to Foot, Mouth to Ear, Communicating Each Other's Prostate Concern." It's the Us Too organization's hope that as the men traverse the walk together they begin to talk together about the disease.
While more men talk about the prostate cancer today than they did 10 years ago, Maura says more communication is still needed about the disease that was once thought of as an old man's disease.
Prostate cancer screening statistics by Us Too over the last five years have for the most part increased during prostate screening clinics staged by the organization as the awareness improved. In 2003, their statistics show a total of 313 persons were tested. In 2004, the number dropped to 231, then again in 2005 to 227. In 2006, a total of 481 persons were tested during the clinics, with 373 presenting in 2007. In 2008, a record 771 tests were performed with 624 prostates checked in 2009, and last year, 687 men presented to have their prostates checked.
Statistics also show that most men reported that they took the test at the urging of their wives. In 2004, two men said their wives encouraged them to take the test. Last year statistics complied by Us Too show that 192 men said they had been encouraged to take the test by their spouses.
Maura says the information now suggests that men should have their prostate checked as early as 35, especially if they have a family history. He says prostate cancer is a disease that can be treated and men don't have to die from it if it's caught early enough.
"Men are worried about their manhood, but aren't doing much, or waiting too late to take the requisite steps to protect the very thing that could destroy their manhood," he says.
With several tests to detect prostate cancer the DRE is an early test to screen for the disease when it is most treatable. Maura say Us Too touts the DRE as it measures the degree of enlargement that a prostate has undergone and medical professionals are able to detect textural changes. A Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test can be done in conjunction to the DRE.
"The PSA test alone won't be able to tell you what condition the prostate is in, because it has no way of measuring the degree of enlargement the prostate has undergone. There have been studies done that show that the PSA itself has no way of measuring what is happening to the prostate, so you could be falsely feeling safe or you could be way off the mark. The DRE measures the degree of enlargement the prostate has undergone and it has a certain texture that it develops because of the enlargement and so therefore you need both to tell you the true picture, because you can have an elevated PSA count, but it cannot tell you what is actually happening with the prostate itself."
Although not a prostate cancer survivor, Maura says checking your prostate is an overall health concern and that younger men who don't take care of their prostates now will suffer from it later.
"A lot of people think when you get prostate cancer it automatically progresses to stage four and you die, but that's not the case, there's a process where it becomes an embarrassment, it becomes painful, it becomes everything before you eventually die. Men tend to want to protect their manhood, but they're dealing with the very source of their manhood."
While there are no warning signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer, once a malignant tumor causes the prostate gland to swell significantly, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, men may have a frequent need to urinate, especially at night; difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine; a weak or interrupted urinary stream; inability to urinate standing up; painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation or blood in their urine or semen. While not symptoms of the cancer itself, they are symptoms of the blockage from the cancer growth within the prostate and surrounding tissues.
Symptoms of advanced prostate cancer include dull, incessant deep pain or stiffness in the pelvis, lower back, ribs or upper thighs; arthritic pain in the bones of those areas. Loss of weight and appetite, fatigue nausea or vomiting, swelling of the lower extremities and weakness or paralysis in the lower limbs.
Maura says he knows of people who are undergoing prostate cancer treatment who have finally come to the realization that they are not going to die and that the disease is not fatal necessarily.
"They now find that because they're undergoing the treatment, they're looking at it much better. They still haven't been brave enough to speak about it in a public forum but they have at least come to grips with the fact that they don't have to die. Some are recovering from the surgery, some only have one or two more regimens of chemotherapy and radiation and are realizing it's a whole different ball game than the death knell they thought it was when they first found out."
Maura says too many men are worried about their manhood so they don't talk about prostate cancer, but he says not talking about it is the thing that could destroy their manhood.
During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Us Too will host prostate cancer screening clinics during the month on Tuesday, September 20 at the Elizabeth Estates Clinic, on Thursday, September 22 at the Flamingo Gardens Clinic, on Tuesday, September 27 at the South Beach Clinic and on Thursday, September 29 at the Fleming Street Clinic.
A frequent need to urinate, especially at night.
Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine.
A weak or interrupted urinary stream.
Inability to urinate standing up.
A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation.
Blood in urine or semen.
These are not symptoms of the cancer itself. Instead, they are the symptoms of the blockage from the cancer growth within the prostate and surrounding tissues.
ADVANCED PROSTATE CANCER SYMPTOMS
Dull, incessant deep pain or stiffness in the pelvis, lower back, ribs, or upper thighs; arthritic pain in the bones of those areas.
Loss of weight and appetite, fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.
Swelling of the lower extremities.
Weakness or paralysis in the lower limbs.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE
Difficulty initiating and/or stopping a urine stream.
Pain on urination.
Pain on ejaculation.
Dr. Krista Nottage Is Top Award Winner
Friday, March 2nd, 2012 (Nassau, Bahamas) - Natalie Hernandez is a truly extraordinary young woman. In February 2012, Natalie visited Phnom Pehn, Cambodia as a volunteer student educator for Operation Smile, an international medical charity that has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities around the world.
Bahamians are watching a tsunami of chronic non-communicable diseases sweep through its population as coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease has become the number one cause of death in Bahamians. And unless people decide to act and change their way...
I rise on behalf of the Ministry of Health to make my contribution to this 2010/2011 budget presentation and thank the great constituency of Killarney for the opportunity to present this, my third health budget to this honorable chamber.
I wish to congratulate the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, for his courage in presenting a Budget that is reflective of the realities of the national economic situation and that refused to defer difficult decisions for future generation of leaders.
Jerome Smith was walking home from a gas station four years ago when a man bashed his head in with a rock, leaving the then 20-year-old clinging to life. It was a day Smith recalls vividly. He said he and a female relative were walking home when a man started shouting jeers at her.go," he said.
No one ever thinks they will develop cancer. Cassandra Lewis-Moore was one of those people. The 34-year-old thought there was a possibility she would get diabetes as it'runs'in her family, but she never thought cancer would happen to her. But during the eighth month of pregnancy with her first child in October 2010, she felt a huge lump in one of her breasts. She knew something was wrong. She sought medical attention.
"It was very large, and it shouldn't have been there,"recalled Lewis-Moore."I'd never felt anything like that before. It didn't hurt, but it was very hard and very big. But because the breasts were so large you couldn't see it."
Because she was pregnant, her doctor ordered an ultrasound of the breast and concluded it was breast milk that would go away once she started breastfeeding. Lewis-Moore, a newlywed and her husband, Kevin welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Andreus, who they call"KJ"into the family. In the months after her son's birth, she noticed her breast size decreasing, but the lump getting bigger and protruding through the skin and not disappearing like the doctor had told her it would. It had started to hurt. It was a pain she chalked up to tenderness from breastfeeding. That was until the day she was playing with a then crawling"KJ"and like all babies do, he kneed her in the breast. The pain was excruciating. She remembers actually pushing her baby away from her so suddenly that she scared him. She thought about what the doctors had told her, and massaged her breast and put hot towels on it to help dissolve the milk. But it was the day that she took a"me day"in January 2011, and headed to the spa for a massage. As the therapist worked on her back, she said it was so painful she could not complete the therapy. That pain sent her back to her doctor.
Her doctor requested a mammogram. The result showed hardened milk. Her doctor requested a lumpectomy to remove the hardened mass, which was done in March 2011. The mass was tested and the result returned as Stage 2 breast cancer. The cancer cells were actually inside the hardened breast milk.
FRIGHT TAKES HOLD
Lewis-Moore was scared--not because it had taken so long to determine she had breast cancer--she was mad because she wondered what would happen to her family after she'd waited so long to get married and have a child, and then to be diagnosed with cancer while still a newlywed and a new mother.
"In my 20s, it was all about education and my career--so in my 30s, it was about getting married. And I'm the only girl and the last child in my family, so it was a big thing[for me to get married and have a child], and to be told this[that I had cancer]. I thought, what was going to happen to my family?"
Lewis-Moore began her battle with the deadly cancer cells. She celebrated her baby's first birthday one week before she began chemotherapy treatment. And she did her best to keep her energy up over the months of treatment for her child, who was too young to understand that his mom was sick.
"He just knows one day mommy had hair that he used to pull,"says Lewis-Moore who boldly sports a bald head no hair caps for her."The tough part was when we were playing one day and I had already started chemo, and he pulled on my hair, and a whole clump came out in his hand and fell on his face. He just dropped it and ran. He was scared. But other than that, mommy is still mommy. Sometimes, she can still play; sometimes, she can't because she's very tired."
She's finished with chemo, but will have to take additional treatment because she was diagnosed as HER2-positive. This is a diagnosis for people who have a protein called human epidermal growth factor that promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positivebreast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. They're also less responsive to hormone treatment. However, treatments that specifically target HER2 are very effective.
"I'm going to have to do additional treatments, but they're not as severe as the chemo, and they want me to do radiation, and we're still setting that up."
The road to survivor isn't quite finished yet, but Lewis-Moore begs to differ. "I had a lump--the cancer was there, and they took the lump out, and the cancer hadn't spread."
Even though chemo was a downside, Lewis-Moore has come out on the other side with a friend--a 31-year-old who had to have an immediate double mastectomy because her cancer was spreading like wildfire.
"Chemo was rough; I will not lie,"she says."It is not rough for everyone, but for those who have the illnesses after the chemo, make sure you have a strong support system at home and at work."
BRINGING SEXY BACK
She is now on a slow road to bringing sexy back. She's walking at least 20 minutes a day as recommended by her doctor, and looking forward to the fabulous new breasts she will soon be getting. She had a partial mastectomy on one breast, but to put safety measures in place for her future, she wants to have a double mastectomy then get those"fabulous new breasts"with which will come a tummy tuck. The surgery she will have done, a TRAM Flap Breast Reconstruction, which is the gold standard in breast construction, removes some of her stomach skin and fat, to reconstruct her breasts and fill them in.
As she battled the disease, she admits that she was not always as confident as she is today and says at one point, she really stopped trying and didn't bother with anything. But after a month or two, she said to hell with it--that she was going to live her life and have fun. She was going to dress up and go out and rock her bald head.
When she first started to lose her hair, which was natural, her cousin took her to his barber and she got a low haircut. The hair continued to come out, so she told her husband to shave off the rest. Right after she did that, Lewis-Moore, who works for BAF Financial and Insurance Bahamas Ltd., the coordinators behind Denim Day in the country for 14 years in raising monies for a cure, says she had to attend a company awards ceremony to which she wore a head-wrap. For a week she wore different head-wraps until she was hit by a hot flash at work. All she wanted to do was get naked, but she couldn't at work. The best thing for her to do was remove the head-wrap. That was the last day she wore one.
Removing the head-wrap liberated her and gave her confidence.
"I had another coworker who had breast cancer and her advice to me was to just wear makeup, but I couldn't wear that because I sweat too much, so I would just draw on my eyebrows if I remembered in the mornings. One morning, I woke up, was washing my face, looked in the mirror and said,"By damn, I don't have any eyebrows, eyelashes, nothing. So some days, I had eyebrowsâEUR¦some days, I didn't and I put on my lip-gloss, put on my earrings and was out the door."
The cancer survivor is excited for her future. And she says cancer does not have to be a death sentence. She says women need to take their health seriously and check things out because they know their bodies, and know when something is wrong. She encourages them to get bumps or moles that they hadn't seen before checked out.
For anyone who has been newly diagnosed with breast cancer or will be diagnosed in the future, Lewis-Moore says she has learned that you need to have a strong support system at home and at work, both of which she had.
Through her battle, Lewis-Moore was thankful for the support she received from her husband, and also thankful that he had a group of friends with wives, sisters or mothers that had breast cancer that he could talk to.
"It was tough, because being a newlywed and fairly young, and I didn't have urges. It just wasn't there. I was miserable in the sense that I did not want to be bothered and I did not want to be here."
But she says her husband's support, as well as that of her family--her mother traveled from Grand Bahama to stay with them for six months--and her aunts and cousins helped by keeping the baby some days and make certain she was okay, especially after days when she endured eight-hour chemotherapy sessions, helped her through the rough times. And her co-workers that knew what she was going through were helpful and very understanding.
"I never thought cancer would happen to me. I thought maybe I would get diabetes because that runs in my family, but never anything like this,"she says.